The Stooges

Even more so than their rabble-rousing Detroit neighbors the MC5 or their cerebral New York contemporaries the Velvet Underground, the Stooges could be called the antithesis of the Hippie culture that coincided with the band's original lifespan.  The Stooges were primal and confrontational, creating a pummeling sound that sounded palpably dangerous. Although the band’s three original albums came and went with little mainstream attention, the Stooges’ longterm impact is reflected its immense influence upon multiple generations of Punk outfits.

The Stooges — frontman Iggy Pop (born James Osterberg, aka Iggy Stooge), brothers Ron and Scott Asheton on guitar and drums, and bassist Dave Alexander — came together in 1967, debuting at a Halloween concert at the University of Michigan student union. The band quickly gained a reputation for its wild live shows, featuring Iggy's athletic and authentically risky stage antics. The Stooges received a record deal when Elektra A&R man Danny Fields, who'd signed their boundary pushing neighbors the MC5, snapped them up after seeing the Stooges open an MC5 show.

The Stooges' eponymous John Cale-produced 1969 debut album, and the even more primitive followup Fun House, are now considered classics, but both generated minimal sales at the time. Dropped by Elektra, the band — with Ron Asheton moving to bass to make room for new guitarist James Williamson — spent a two-year period unsigned and mostly inactive. Temporary salvation arrived in 1972 in the form of David Bowie, then at the height of his popularity and cultural influence. Bowie helped the band, now known as Iggy and the Stooges, get a deal with Columbia Records, and produced their comeback effort, Raw Power. Although Bowie's thin, brittle mix received criticism from Stooges diehards, the record’s sound presaged and influenced that of countless future Punk combos.  Despite some positive press and Bowie's high-profile involvement, Raw Power bombed, effectively ending the Stooges' career.

Bowie's patronage yielded more tangible results when Iggy Pop launched his solo career. Bowie produced Iggy's first two solo  albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life, and played keyboards on the tour that produced the live album TV Eye Live. Meanwhile, the Stooges' posthumous stature grew exponentially, making it major news when the original lineup (minus Dave Alexander, who died in 1975) undertook the first of a series of successful reunion tours in 2003. Ron Asheton's death in 2009 set the stage for the return of James Williamson, who returned to the band after a long career in the electronics business, retiring from his job as Sony's vice president of technical standards.

Related Lessons

The Sound of Blue Collar Detroit

Grades: High
Subjects: Social Studies/History

How did Rock and Roll serve as an expressive tool for the working-class youth of Detroit?